The US has thrown its full support behind Israel’s military response to a mass of rockets fired by Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that currently rules the Gaza Strip.
Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, stated that it would be “up to the Israeli government” whether to follow up punishing airstrikes with a ground assault. Rhodes added:
“Our view is that the Israelis have the right of self-defense when their citizens are faced with the threat of indiscriminate rocket fire from within Gaza.”
Yahoo! News notes that, when he was asked if the Obama administration would have any problems with an Israeli ground assault, Rhodes responded by saying “ultimately, it’s up to the Israeli government to make determinations about how they’re going to carry out their military objectives.”
Israel launched a massive military rocket operation against Hamas on Wednesday that killed its top military commander. In response, Palestinian militants have launched more than 200 rockets at Israel on Thursday, killing three people and causing Israel to respond by moving its troops closer to the border area with Gaza.
More than 12 trucks were spotted transporting tanks, while other armored personnel carriers and a number of buses carrying soldiers arrived. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also announced he has authorized the army to call-up additional reservists in case of action. They are preparing to draft up to 30,000 additional troops. Barak added:
“I ordered the military today to widen the draft of reserve soldiers in order to be able to be ready for any development.”
Israel and Hamas have largely observed an informal truce for the past four years, but the fighting this week, which is the heaviest seen since 2008, has killed 15 Palestinians in two days and brought life in both areas to a complete standstill. Most residents have been hiding in their homes or bomb shelters and school is cancelled.
The fighting has shown no signs of abating as Israeli aircraft continues to attack military targets in Israel, while militants fire rocket barrages from Gaza. Some of the rickets from Gaza targeted Tel Aviv, sending air raid sirens blaring and sparking panic in the streets. They were also some of the deepest rocket strikes from Gaza on record, according to Yahoo! News.
While defense officials have responded by saying they are ready for a ground invasion in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added that the army is prepared for a “significant widening” of its Gaza offensive. Netanyahu explained:
“No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire, and Israel will not tolerate this situation. This is why my government has instructed the Israeli Defense Forces to conduct surgical strikes against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. And this is why Israel will continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people.”